There are a lot of factors in choosing a shipping company, between the USPS and the other major private carriers. Deciding which one to use for your company’s specific needs depends a lot on what you value in a shipping service. It can be shipping cost, or package delivery date, or shipping carrier service attributes. Choosing the right shipping carrier might even be based on the specific circumstances, like one small package going via international shipping, and another shipped express mail with weekend delivery one state away.
Two of the major carriers that shippers use are UPS and USPS. What’s the difference between UPS and USPS? UPS, also known as United Parcel Service, is an American Fortune 500 company that is one of the largest shipping carriers in the world. It ships domestically and internationally, with offices around the world. The USPS, or United States Postal Service, is an independent federal agency that is responsible for postal service domestically. It has the mandate to deliver express mail to every mailbox in the country.
Which is faster, USPS or UPS?
When determining how long it will take for a package delivery to arrive via UPS vs USPS, it can again depend on a number of factors. Keep in mind that due to systemwide changes at the USPS, implemented by the Postmaster General Louis DeJoy the service’s board of overseers, the USPS service began slowing its service, starting in October 2021. DeJoy’s 10-year plan for the USPS is designed to cut costs and raise USPS rates and new revenue, while lengthening its service standards. Mail that used to take two to three days, will now take two to five days. Less of the mail will be flown, and more will be transported with ground shipping by truck.
Here are factors influencing the speed of parcel delivery for UPS vs USPS.
Overnight domestic deliveries: UPS is faster than USPS. UPS offers same-day pick-up and next-day delivery with several parcel delivery options, like early morning, mid-day, and end of the day. The USPS offers a Priority Mail 1-Day option, but it’s not time-sensitive. It will be delivered by 6 pm the next day.
Expedited deliveries: UPS and USPS have different names for these services, but in general UPS is faster. UPS offers 2nd Day Air and UPS 3 Day Select, which gives an indication of how long it takes to arrive. USPS Priority Mail or First Class can take two to five days to arrive, perhaps on the longer side when traveling longer distances, given the new postal service plan.
Ground shipping domestic deliveries: UPS is slightly faster for ground service compared to USPS retail ground, perhaps by two days.
International shipping: UPS tends to be a faster shipping service than USPS because they have a better shipping network abroad. When shipping via USPS, the package is handed off to the destination country’s mail service for delivery.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, UPS dropped many of its service guarantees, so keep that in mind when investigating shipping options and promising delivery times to your customers.
Is FedEx, UPS or USPS cheaper?
So what is the difference between UPS vs USPS, Fedex vs UPS or Fedex vs USPS? Costs for shipping rates for the major carriers (FedEx, DHL, UPS, and USPS) depend on factors like:
- Package size and weight (larger packages and heavier packages will cost more than a small package; dimensional weight should be checked)
- Shipping zone (shipping to a longer distance is more expensive)
- Service chosen (e.g. overnight delivery, ground, Flat Rate)
- Pick-up service (it’s less expensive to drop off at the UPS Store, for example, than to schedule a pick-up)
- Additional services (e.g. delivery confirmation, Saturday delivery)
- Shipping to residences (this is more expensive with FedEx and UPS than shipping to a business address. USPS does not charge extra for this service)
It’s probably easiest to compare shipping companies by looking at examples. Here are examples of shipping a smaller package via USPS, FedEx, and UPS with different delivery times.
Overnight delivery: 1 pound package, 8″ x 8″ x 2″ from New York 10001 to San Francisco 94123 shipping on a Wednesday to a business address.
Priority/Expedited mail: 1 pound package, 8″ x 8″ x 2″ from New York 10001 to San Francisco 94123 on a Wednesday, priority delivery to a business address
Ground delivery: 1 pound package, 8″ x 8″ x 2″ from New York 10001 to San Francisco 94123 on a Wednesday, to a business address
From these, you can see that the cheapest shipping rates are usually USPS. If you need it faster, however, USPS may not be the right carrier for the situation. It’s also a good idea to check the prices for heavier packages and also for freight, as the shipping rate can vary considerably based on that. UPS can be more economical for large packages and heavy packages. Packages 13 ounces or less are great for USPS.
Do UPS and USPS work together?
UPS and USPS do work together, in programs called UPS SurePost and UPS Mail Innovations. This program is popular with eCommerce businesses. With these programs, the UPS driver picks up the mail or packages (or it’s dropped off at a UPS Store), but ultimately the USPS delivers it.
There are several advantages to using this program over just UPS or USPS. It tends to be less expensive than UPS service, and the USPS is able to deliver more economically to residential addresses for the final mile delivery, and can do so on Saturdays, when UPS would normally charge more for weekend delivery. The service gives a tracking number and shipping label. The parcels are processed by the UPS facilities, with expedited transportation, before delivery to regional and local post offices for that last mile.
Choosing a shipping company and making economical decisions
Whether you’re in the eCommerce business or just ship products for other reasons, it’s vital to find the best prices and the best services to meet your shipping needs. That may not always be one carrier. Often it’s determining which carrier is the right one for each situation. That’s why you may want to have relationships with all of them. It can be a balance between delivery date, cost, and other services.
There are ways to decrease the shipping costs as well. One way is to use flat rate shipping. All the carriers use some form of this service, and sometimes (not always) it can be a less expensive option. Using a shipping software company can also help reduce prices for your shipments, allowing you to see the options laid out to help you find the best one. Automated software can make that decision for you and your staff, if you set up the right parameters.
However, there are two lesser known ways to save money on shipping costs, especially when shipping via FedEx or UPS shipping. The first is using an invoice audit recovery program, which can help a company lower its shipping costs without much effort. The program scours carrier invoices looking for mistakes and errors. The shipping company doesn’t have to do anything for this process to occur, and the found errors can save a company 1% to 9% of its total invoice costs.
The invoice audit recovery program can be used for all kinds of shipping, including parcel shipping, LTL, and FTL shipping, and on UPS, FedEx, and DHL. The Shipware program takes advantage of artificial intelligence to identify the invoicing errors, and these are practically impossible for humans to catch, especially with the number of invoices shippers receive. The errors are often in the details, and might include a missed service guarantee, a mistaken accessorial fee or charge, and all the errors add up to that 1% to 9% extra.
Once the shipping company sets up the software, which takes about 10 minutes, the software will work autonomously in the background, drawing in the invoice data, finding the errors, and applying for credit on the shipper’s behalf. All credits are applied directly into the shipper’s account with no effort from the shipper. There are also no out-of-pocket costs. All Shipware fees come from the amounts recovered from the carrier, and Shipware receives no fees unless the shippers receive credits.
The other area ripe for savings is in the carrier contract optimization program. While more work than the invoice audit recovery program, the shipper stands to save a lot more on shipping costs. Many shippers are able to renegotiate their carrier contracts with professional and expert help, lowering their overall shipping costs by up to 30%.
Carriers can enter the renegotiation process at any time, including when contracts are up for renewal. Shipware’s experts will delve into the shipping details to understand the company’s shipping nuances, including parcel sizes, weights, destinations, accessorial fees, and other factors. These are then compared to Shipware’s proprietary benchmarked data. Just like audit recovery service, the contract optimization service can apply to parcel, LTL, and FTL freight carriers.
Customers get fantastic results from Shipware’s in-house experts, who used to be carrier-side shipping executives. They are able to use their expertise and Shipware’s benchmarking data to develop a negotiating strategy and coach the company through it, to agree on better rates and terms. Without insights based on data, and knowing what terms are negotiable and by how much, shippers cannot negotiate as well. There is much more to negotiating a carrier contract than receiving across the board discounts.